Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Campaign against mother of dead hunger striker must end - Amnesty International

Cuba: Campaign against mother of dead hunger striker must end
17 August 2010
AI Index: PRE01/284/2010

The Cuban authorities must act to end the harassment of the mother of a
prisoner of conscience who died following a hunger strike to push for
the release of other prisoners, Amnesty International said today.

Reina Luisa Tamayo, whose son Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in February
this year, told Amnesty International she has been repeatedly harassed
by authorities and government supporters during the regular marches she
carries out in the town of Banes, in memory of her son.

"Reina Luisa Tamayo is simply paying tribute to her son who died in
tragic circumstances, and that must be respected by the authorities"
said Kerrie Howard, Amnesty International's Americas Deputy Director.

Every Sunday Reina Luisa Tamayo, who is usually accompanied by relatives
and friends, walks from her home to the church of Nuestra Señora de la
Caridad, to attend mass, from where they march to the cemetery, where
Orlando is buried.

On Sunday 15 August, government supporters arrived early in the morning
and surrounded her house, Reina Luisa Tamayo told Amnesty International,
preventing her and her relatives and friends from marching and attending
mass at the church.

Ahead of the march, Cuban security forces also allegedly detained some
of the women due to attend in their homes for up to 48 hours, without
any explanation being given for the measure.

Reina Luisa told Amnesty International that six loudspeakers were
installed near her house and were used to shout slogans against her and
the Ladies in White, an organization of female relatives of prisoners of
conscience campaigning for their release.

On 8 August, Reina Luisa Tamayo was confronted by government supporters,
who blocked her path and, according to her recount, beat relatives and
friends of the family. She said a police patrol was parked nearby
watching the events, but failed to intervene.

Amnesty International has also expressed its concern at a series of
recent detentions by the police of independent journalists and dissidents.

Writer Luis Felipe Rojas Rozabal was detained by the police at 7am on 16
August, at his home in the town of San Germán, province of Holguín.

Luis Felipe's family is unaware of the reasons of his arrest, but they
have said they suspect this might be related to his criticism of the
government. He has been arbitrarily detained on several previous
occasions in similar circumstances.

Several members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, a network of
political dissident organizations, have also been detained.

"At a time when the Cuban government has begun to release prisoners of
conscience, the campaign of harassment against Reina Luisa Tamayo and
the arbitrary detention of journalists and dissident figures shows that
the authorities are yet to make significant progress on human rights",
said Kerrie Howard.


In March 2003, Orlando Zapata Tamayo was arrested and, a year later,
sentenced to three years in prison for "disrespect", "public disorder"
and "resistance". This was the first of a series of convictions for
"disobedience" and "disorder in a penal establishment".

Orlando was one of dozens of prisoners of conscience adopted by Amnesty
International in Cuba at the time. The majority were among the 75 people
arrested as part of the massive March 2003 crackdown by authorities
against political activists.

In early December 2009, Orlando started a hunger strike to campaign for
the release of prisoners of conscience held in Cuba. He died on 23
February 2010.

Currently there are at least 30 prisoners of conscience in Cuba's jails.
Amnesty international calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

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